Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WARNING: Are you still yapping or texting from your cell phone?

** (Note:  This blog entry was first posted on August 23, 2009, and is being re-posted as a public service.)  WARNING – THE ABOVE CARTOON IS DARKLY FUNNY -- (Portland, Oregon-based cartoonist Shannon Wheeler is a fabulous talent who inspires humor and thought-provoking topics for discussion) – BUT THE IMAGES BELOW are screen shots take from a SERIOUS and GRAPHIC public service film from the United Kingdom - whose makers have authorized me to upload to my own You Tube Channel - and post a story about it on this blog.

** On July 1, 2008, California's ban against using cell phones while driving went into effect.

** While the law created a greater awareness about the dangers of using cell phones while driving – the sad truth is it will probably take more accidents – and more tickets – to get more people in line.  (Full disclosure: I haven't invested in hands-free technology, but I don't use my phone while driving.)

** Try this: The next time you're at a red light, count the number of cars going by with drivers using cell phones in broad daylight. I've done this several times and admittedly, it's not scientific, but about 3 cars for every 10 – contain drivers yapping away on their phones. (I've even seen drivers dropping/tilting their heads a little bit to avoid getting caught.)

** Between 2008 and 2010, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) issued more than 120,000 tickets against lawbreakers throughout the state. And when you include tickets issued by city and county police officers, that number balloons to about 250,000 citations. The average fine is about $120, depending upon where you live.

** And most of those tickets were for yapping. It's harder to catch people texting in their cars – which many believe is a greater scourge. Texting while driving is equivalent to an idiot using his thumbs to write a message – while at the wheel of a 2,000-pound killer clocked at 50-miles per hour.

** According to a release issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, several deadly accidents involving texting behind the wheel have raised the possibility of even tougher laws and penalties. In 2008, a commuter train in Los Angeles -- whose driver was texting on a cell phone -- led to accident that killed 25 people and injured 135 others.

** "In another incident, a Florida truck driver admitted to texting moments before a collision with a school bus that killed a student," the release noted. And last month, "a 17-year-old high school student from Peoria, Illinois was killed when she drove off the road while texting with friends."

** And this is just the tip of the iceberg. It's hard to tell which accidents are caused by cell phone use and which aren't – because drivers who survive them won't admit using their phones – and it's hard to prove in the aftermath of cleaning wreckage from a crash.

** In the United Kingdom, a graphic public service film depicting the ravages of using cell phones in cars has spread virally on the Internet. The four-minute sequence involves British actors and creative talent – and is part of a larger 30-minute drama produced and directed by Peter Watkins-Hughes -- an award winning, former BBC TV producer with 15 years experience in documentary, animation, comedy and drama -- with credits in every genre from melodramas to gardening shows.

** Moreover, Mr. Watkins-Hughes is also a lecturer for the Documentary Film and Television department at the Newport School of Art, Media and Design in Wales. He enlisted his own students to work on the film, which was made for - and with - the Gwent Police Department, located about 150 miles west of London. Mr. Watkins-Hughes says the longer-version of this film will be shown at schools this year, to be incorporated within what's called the Personal and Social Education (PSE) curriculum. And he's now in talks with the BBC to have the film, presently entitled "COW" – to be broadcast later this year throughout the U.K.

** WARNING – the graphic, four-minute video clip below is professionally staged -- but appears very realistic and does a fine job hammering its message home. In my view, every parent should see it.  It should be imported and licensed from Mr. Watkins-Hughes for broadcast throughout the United States. His contact information is available by clicking here.

** The clip above is part of a longer drama called "COW." According to its representatives, the film's synopsis is as follows: "It's all about Cassie Cowan, a nice girl from a Gwent valley's family who kills four people on the road because she used her mobile and lost her concentration for a few seconds. Gwent police is proud to have helped Brynmawr filmmaker Peter Watkins-Hughes in the production, which stars local drama students Jenny Davies as Cassie, and Amy Ingram and Laura Quantick as her friends, Emm and Jules." More credit information is available at the bottom of this post below.

** Many years ago I remember getting ticketed for not wearing a seat belt. At the time, the motor cop was almost embarrassed to hit me with a ticket for something other than a gross moving violation. Those days are gone. Today the state's seat belt law is vigorously enforced – and police officers no longer apologize. The combination of seat belts and air bags have dramatically lowered fatalities. You don't even have to look it up. Traffic accidents are still abundant, but lives are being saved. Most "higher-thinking primates" feel buckling up is an automatic reflex. So why then, are people still using their cell phones while driving?

** According to Governing Magazine, what's more astonishing is "while 29 states have passed some kind of limit on cell-phone use...none has gone so far as to enact a total ban on drivers’ phone conversations." This means millions of people are still yapping and texting away, in spite of, the Los Angeles Times reports, a "growing body of studies which show that texting, conversing on hand-held phones or even chatting hands-free...makes us dangerous drivers, as likely to get into an accident as if we were legally drunk."

** The news isn't all bleak. According to Steven Bloch of the Automobile Club of Southern California, cell phone use in cars is down about 60 percent since the law went into effect. But not in New York. "In New York State, where a 'hands-free cell phones law' took effect in 2001, almost no effect of the law was found a year later," said Bloch.

** What's being done?  Beyond the video above that should be licensed and imported for schools in the United States – there's the ALERT Drivers Act – which punishes states without laws against texting -- by cutting off millions of federal dollars for transportation. And U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has also taken a strong strand investigating texting and other driving distractions.

** Mr. Bloch of the Automobile Club reports that since the cell phone ban in California, the citations issued by the CHP alone – represents about 6 percent of all moving violation citations. "Hand-held cell phone use appears to have crept up slowly over the months, but contrary to a general perception of much higher usage, it's still far lower than it was before the law took effect..."

** Well OK, then.  But I still see a lot of people using their cell phones, inviting an accident to happen. Obviously if you catch someone doing this, get as far away from them as possible.

** Or honk like hell.

** UPDATE: After posting this video at You Tube -- click here, the bandwidth on my news site exploded. Thousands of viewers seeking the full context of the video's creation -- came over here, blowing past the standard settings on my photo-hosting account, temporarily knocking down many images. This problem has now been permanently resolved.

** I wish to make clear that I was NOT the first person to post this video.
The major difference is that my version is "authorized" by its makers to be posted on my own You Tube channel and is the ONLY one that provides news and other information about how the film came to be. Many production artists and creative talents in the U.K. who deserve due credit for its creation, have rightly expressed irritation about "losing control" of their film to the Internet. I wish to correct some of that now.

** This 30-minute drama is available in additional snippets which have been largely ignored -- (compared to the video of the crash itself)-- but can be seen by visiting the work posted by film editor Richard Jon Micklewright, who worked on this production with producer-director Peter Watkins-Hughes -- and goes by the handle, "richardjonm" at You Tube. I encourage you to visit his video channel, where you will find the crash video clip, production credits and his contact information. (Parenthetically, it also also features my own verbatim introductory words and phrasing with my permission, presented in my standard news summary format).

** You will also find a series of "tasters" (which are equivalent to the word "teasers" in the United States) -- from the drama that surrounds the four-minute crash video clip. My only role was to frame the video's titanic importance for the very news column you're reading -- in order to point out the woeful lack of comprehensive bans against the use of cell phones in cars in many states here in the U.S. My intent is to call attention to a problem that, when corrected, will serve the greater good.

(Original material © 2009-2012 by David Kusumoto Communications.)